Star Trekking IX: Insurrection

Posted: July 24, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews, Retrospectives

*Spoilers ahead MPW-29235Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I don’t know if there’s anything more discouraging than apathy. With previous Star Trek films, there seems to be strong opinions going one way or the other. Whether it be the love for The Wrath of Khan or the hatred for The Final Frontier, or even the divisive opinions of The Motion Picture, all of the films had a certain level of passion which made things interesting. With Star Trek: Insurrection however, most people don’t really care. Some people don’t like it, some do, but nobody is really willing to jump up and defend it, or tear it down for that matter. Having seen Insurrection, I must say, I understand the lack of passion. While far from the worst Star Trek film, Insurrection is certainly the most mediocre.

In the Briar Patch of space, where communication is blocked, there is a planet inhabited by a race known as the Ba’ku. The Ba’ku are humanoid aliens who, having rejected technology, have lived on this planet for over three hundred years. Due to particles in the planet’s rings, the Ba’ku adults have ceased ageing. In fact, all have been physically improved and are even in a state of mental bliss. However, a dying race known as the Son’a see this planet as their last shot at survival and thus want the Ba’ku relocated. They attempt to do this subtlety, but are not above taking the planet by force. Picard sees this as wrong and is willing to fight for the challenged race.

At the heart of this film are some interesting ideas, but the execution leaves much to be desired. The core theme of Insurrection revolves around the forced relocation of peoples, and if in some cases it is necessary for a greater good. This is certainly an interesting set-up and can lead to some interesting discussion, but the film squanders the presence. Instead of creating an ambiguous and questionable situation, the film portrays the Ba’ku as a perfect and harmonious race, while the Son’a are an evil force, that look like monsters, which has come to take the Ba’ku’s home away from them. It’s too simplistic and is lacking in depth. What’s more is that, despite the film’s efforts, I find myself more sympathetic to the villains. They may have questionable motives, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Ba’ku are sitting on a power which can save countless lives and improve the quality of life of even more. Why should this gift be kept from the rest of the galaxy? Hell, the film could easily be rewritten through the point of view of the Son’a. A desperate and dying race wishing to survive are denied by an elitist group of 600 unwilling to share their resources.

Another idea introduced early on is the abandonment of technology. Before the revitalising effects of the planet are revealed, it is implied that it is the tech-free life which has led to the Ba’ku being so happy and prosperous. I don’t really agree with the anti-tech sentiments, but there could have been some interesting material there. However once the planet’s powers are revealed, the tech debate is largely dropped.There’s also an attempted subplot with Data and a child which adds nothing and a forced love story between Picard and a Ba’ku woman which, again, goes nowhere. I’ve read that the initial idea for the next Trek film went through a number of revisions and that many of the people working on the film had different ideas about the themes, so the lack of focus does make sense, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

Ironically enough, all of these suggested story elements boil down to a simplistic action film where Picard and his crew protecting the Ba’ku from the Son’a. This wouldn’t be too problematic if the film functioned as an action movie, but it really doesn’t. Part of the problem is that most of the cast isn’t really suited to conventional shootouts and chases, and the overall execution of these scenes lacks excitement. It’s kind of shocking to think Jonathan Frakes was able to direct the edge of your seat action in First Contact, whereas the action here is a lot less inspired. The exception to this is a setpiece with Riker fighting a pair of ships in a nebula, which is really awesome and the highlight of the film. The production values here are also a large step down. The CGI is noticeably off and the art direction and costume design for the Ba’ku is especially uninspired. Exploring a foreign world would have been a lot of fun, but the costumes are very plain and the planet does not look the least bit alien.

So I’ve spent a lot of this review laying into Star Trek: Insurrection, what did I like about the film? Well, as I said, the stuff with Riker piloting the Enterprise through the nebula is really cool. I also like a lot of the ideas here, even if they aren’t executed very well. The movie’s tone is also a nice change of pace. The previous “Next Generation” films have been serious and dark, but Insurrection does not have the pressure of trying to be a Star Trek epic. Instead, the film only aims to be an enjoyable adventure, and there are a lot of fun light moments with the cast. Some of these can get pretty goofy, like Picard and Worf singing to subdue a malfunctioning Data, but for the most part they’re fun. Jerry Goldsmith provides a pretty strong score too.

Star Trek: Insurrection is not a film lacking in merit. It has some strong scenes and a fairly fun tone. It’s also not a film of any colossal short comings. There aren’t any head scratchingly stupid decisions from the filmmakers or anything that can inspire hostility. But at the same time, the film is lacking in a truly strong story, has weak production values, and is ultimately not a very memorable entry in the Star Trek canon. Insurrection is a pleasant enough watch, but there isn’t enough here to really give it a recommendation.


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